STEM Taupulega

The Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Taupulega was established in January 2017. The word Taupulega is a Samoan / Tokelauan term which means Council of Advisors. 

The purpose of the STEM Taupulega is to provide support, advice and guidance to work with external partners to realise the Pasifika in STEM target:

To achieve a 50 percent lift in NCEA Level 3 Pasifika student achievement, in one or more standards in STEM related
subjects by 2020.

The members of the STEM Taupulega are selected for their skills, experience and expertise that contribute to the purpose and objectives of the role. 

The current membership for the STEM Taupulega comprise:

Dianne Sika-Paotonu

IMG 9972croppedDianne Sika-Paotonu is a Pasifika Biomedical Scientist leading the Penicillin Research Programme at Victoria University of Wellington. She has recently returned back from the Telethon Kids Institute (TKI) in Perth Western Australia where she worked with the Group A Streptococcal Disease team based at the Wesfarmers Centre for Vaccines and Infectious Diseases and where she remains an Honorary Research Fellow.

Dianne is also an Investigator working on projects such as “The Pharmacokinetics of Benzathine Penicillin G-towards a new long-acting penicillin formulation for Rheumatic Fever and Rheumatic Heart Disease” and the National Science Challenge/Healthier Lives funded work “Circulating tumour DNA for better cancer management”, among others. She is also a member of the New Zealand based research team investigating the Immunogenetics of Rheumatic Fever connected with the Genome Wide-Association Study International Consortium.

Dianne completed her PhD in Biomedical Science at Victoria University of Wellington specializing in Immunology while based at the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research. Dianne is of Tongan descent with research interests in the areas of Health and Wellbeing relevant to Pasifika populations living in New Zealand.

J'aime Laurenson

IMG 9947cropped with armsAfter a few years as a Management Consultant at Deloitte, J’aime is now working at a tech start-up company, Auror. In 2010, J’aime graduated from the University of Auckland with first-class honours in both law and engineering bachelors degrees (conjoint) – the first student to do so. He then completed a Masters of Commercialisation and Entrepreneurship. While at university, J’aime also arranged mentoring for Pacific engineering students in a scheme which has contributed to a 100 percent retention rate, and higher than average pass rates. He was also the recipient of the Prime Minister’s Pacific Youth Awards in 2010, winning the Leadership Award category.

J’aime currently looks after the Product at Auror, a company that is transforming the way Police and businesses prevent and solve crime in real-time. Auror makes it easy to report crime incidents, solve more crime, and prevent it in the future, using the power of intelligence and data to make communities safer. Their software platform has already helped affect hundreds of arrests, prevented thousands of crimes, and helped businesses save millions.

James Penfold

IMG 1210 croppedJames Penfold is the recipient of the 2016 Prime Minister’s Pacific Youth Awards for the AKO Aotearoa STEM Award category. 

A New Zealand-born Tongan, James gained entry into medical school as part of the Māori and Pacific Admission Scheme (MAPAS) at the University of Auckland which provides support throughout the admissions process and during studies. In 2016, James was a tutor for Māori and Pacific students at the University of Auckland. He was a part of the Tuākana tutoring staff, teaching Biology for Biomedical Science to classes of around 30-50 students.  Tuākana offers an opportunity for whakawhanaungatanga and group learning to both Māori and Pacific students.

He also worked for Māori and Pacific Admission Scheme (MAPAS), tutoring many of the first year students seeking admission to the medical programme and also teaching Medical Science to classes of 40-50 first-year students. In addition to becoming a doctor, James wants to work with organisations that address Pacific and Māori community issues, such as nutrition and re-employment after incarceration. He is currently working with colleagues on an initiative to address the barriers to Hauora, involving mala’e and marae to determine how best to provide services in an accessible, acceptable and appropriate manner.

Joy Eaton

IMG 9944croppedJoy Eaton joined the Starpath team, as Deputy Director, in early 2011. Starpath, a University of Auckland project for equity and excellence, has a focus on supporting schools to open opportunities for Māori and Pasifika students to follow a pathway to degree level study. The project is currently undertaking an investigation into the enablers and barriers to gaining University Entrance as a qualification.

Joy started her career in education as a geography and social studies teacher at Tangaroa College and has since held a number of senior management roles in mid-low decile schools, including four years as principal at Henderson High School in West Auckland.

Joy has a deep academic interest in the role of hope in the sustainability of innovation and change in education and, as part of a Research Fellowship with UNITEC, wrote a paper entitled ‘The Life and Death of Change’.

Recently, Joy has been actively involved, as an Expert Partner, in the development of cluster school collaborations and has continued to support community work with an interest in youth mentoring and social sector services.

Natalie Faitala

IMG 9934croppedNatalie Faitala is the current Chair for the Pasifika Post Primary Teachers Association (PPTA) Komiti Pasifika. She is also employed as the Head of the English department at Wesley College, Pukekohe, Auckland.

In 2013, Natalie completed a Masters in Education (1st class honours) from the University of Auckland with her thesis focused on Pasifika pathways – educational journeys. She also completed her Bachelor of Education (B. Ed), Social Sciences in 1999 from the University of Waikato.

Natalie’s father hails from Tongareva, in the Northern Cook Islands. Her family returned to the Cook Islands when she was a teenager where she completed her senior secondary schooling.  She returned to Rarotonga in 1999 and taught at Tereora College for five years. Natalie has been an executive member of Komiti Pasifika, PPTA for 5 years and has participated in various Pasifika education advisory roles.

Ronemia Teumohenga

IMG 9958croppedRoneima Teumohenga was the recipient of the 2016 Prime Minister’s Pacific Youth Awards for the Government Communications Security Bureau category for her input into promoting science to Pasifika students. At just 18 years old, Roneima is focused on a career that can help people, and empower Pasifika communities in New Zealand.

Roneima was a leadership prefect in humanities and sciences at Palmerston North Girl’s High, and her Manawatu Science and Technology bronze award. During her time at school, Roneima has met regularly with younger Pasifika pupils at her school to help tutor them.

Roneima is of Tongan, Samoan and Tokelauan descent, and speaks some Tongan as well as Samoan. In 2017, she started her first-year science course – Health Sciences First Year at the University of Otago with the ambition to work in medicine.

Virginia Baker

IMG 0010 CroppedVirginia (Jinny) Baker is a senior social scientist at the Institute for Environmental Science & Research Ltd (ESR) and specialises in community engagement in science. She has worked on a number of environmental and human health projects, including chemical exposures, waste management, drinking water, justice, future foods, and projects exploring intervention models to tack complex issues like Type II diabetes.

Jinny is a sociologist that utilises ‘systems thinking’, ‘co-design’ and participatory research approaches to support scientists, policy makers and communities to work together to build meaningful social change. Jinny is passionate about supporting youth science and education, and has a strong commitment to working in partnership with Māori and Pasifika. Aotearoa NZ is a special place, we have unique cultural and knowledge frameworks to inform our practice, and immense capacities to build stronger collective approaches for improving environmental and human health.

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